There’s one politician who has emerged from the disgraceful episode involving the hypocritical Winston Peters and his wealthy donor mates head and shoulders above the rest.
I have to say I have been one of those extremely happy that Rodney is still an MP, and has been willing to tackle Winston head on. It is a good reminder about the value a minor party can bring – they can do some stuff more easily.
It’s not Prime Minister Helen Clark. She has invented a new, low standard for ensuring Peters remains in his ministerial BMW – that of illegality. As Vernon Small pointed out in the Dominion Post this morning, nowhere else in the western world (except possibly Fiji or Zimbabwe) has illegality been the test by which ministers remain in office.
This is the key. The test should not be that no-one has yet been sent to jail or even charged. It is about standards as a Minister. Ministers are accountable to Parliament and to the public, through the media. No other developed country would tolerate a senior Minister who believes himself above accountability.
It’s not John Key. He has been almost as complicit in his own way as Clark in condoning Peters’ behaviour – partly because National is in a rather large glass house in terms of its own frequent evasions of the electoral law, but mostly because Key is too worried he will need Peters after the election to condemn him outright.
I think that is a bit harsh. Now don’t get me wrong – I would like National to have been tougher on Peters from an earlier stage. But if you do look at what Key has said, he has tied any future co-operation with Peters to whether or not Peters provides acceptable answers to the issues raised by Bob Jones and others. Now if one asked Key if he thought the answers to date were acceptable, he would I am sure say no – which means that there is a line in the sand. Not quite one where I would place it, but if Peters refuses to answer the issues raised, then the natural conclusion is that National is ruling him out as an option. But they have done it in a way where Peters will effectively make that decision – not him.
It’s not the leaders of United Future or the Maori Party, who have said nothing about Peters’ deceptions. It’s not even Green co-leaders Russel Norman and Jeanette Fitzsimons, who have raised the issue in Parliament but done nothing about it outside the House.
It’s ACT leader Rodney Hide. The perk-buster from Epsom has recovered his sense of purpose over the donations scandal, and he is the only politician who has been pushing Peters for answers both inside the House and out.
Warranted praise indeed.
OK, he looks like Ted Bovis from Maplins Holiday Camp in the old BBC telly show Hi-de-Hi!, in his silly yellow jacket that his staff can’t persuade him to remove. But he’s talking a lot more sense.
I had begun to worry that Hide had become so narcissistic over his weight loss and various stage performances that he had disappeared up his own ego. The excruciating appearances on TVNZ’s Good Morning programme, the dancing, the Pollyanna-ish reinvented “let’s not be so beastly to each other” Rodney saw him lose his mana and his political nous along with the kilograms.
But in the past two weeks he has gone a long way to redemption. It was Hide who demanded that the Speaker consider a breach of privilege case against Peters. And Hide who, in a stroke of genius, yesterday complained to the Serious Fraud Office, thereby ensuring the story will live on for a few more days.
Heh the Hi-de-Hi reference is so spot on.
There may be another reason why the Yellow Coat of Epsom has a spring back in his step. National is giving Hide plenty of room to play on the centre-Right at the moment. The Working for Families announcement was an absolute gift. Judging by some of the comments on this blog, there will be a few disgusted National voters heading ACT’s way over the decision to continue to deliver welfare to upper-middle-income earners.
It will be very interesting to see whether ACT receives a boost in its polling over this. Hide has been in the news nightly. It’s sometimes difficult to pick up rises in very small sample sizes, of course, but I think ACT is still likely to register an increase.
Indeed the move to the centre does leave room for ACT. However I would have expected them to have started rising before now to be honest.
There is no question Hide will win Epsom again. National will barely bother to contest it. That means every vote for ACT counts. If Hide can continue the momentum and not slip back into the self-indulgence he has often displayed in the past year, ACT could yet be back with several new MPs after the election.
The ultimate irony for Peters would be if it is his nemesis who ends up around the Cabinet table and not him. At least Hide could say he’d earned it.
That would be an irony indeed.